Substantive Change

What is a Substantive Change?


A substantive change is a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution. Substantive change includes high-impact, high-risk changes and changes that can impact the quality of educational programs and services. SACSCOC accredits an entire institution. They can include  and can  depending on the intent of the changes.  

Guiding Principles

The Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) substantive change policy and procedures assure the public that all aspects of an institution continue to meet standards. It helps ensure substantive changes, if approved, do not hinder an institution’s ability to continue meeting the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation. Accreditation extends to all programs and services of an institution wherever located and however delivered. SACSCOC does not accredit individual programs, locations, or portions of an institution. However, some new programs, locations, and other institutional changes are subject to notification and/or approval as defined in Substantive Change Policy and Procedures. 

Accreditation Liason

It is expected that the CEO or a designated representative of an institution will notify the Commission President of substantive changes at that institution.  Every institution has an Accreditation Liaison whose charge is to ensure compliance with accreditation requirements.  The Accreditation Liaison should take the time to become familiar with the Commissions policies and procedures, ensure that substantive changes are recognized and reported in a timely fashion, and consult with the institution’s SACSCOC staff member about any questions. 

Campus Visits & Requirements

Certain types of substantive changes, such as adding branch campuses, level changes, mergers/consolidations, and changes in governance require a visit by a substantive change committee to determine continued compliance with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement. When a committee visit has been authorized by the President of the Commission, the institution will be asked to provide documentation of the impact of the change on selected requirements in the Principles of Accreditation. 


Resources and Helpful Links

Frequently Asked Questions about Substantive Changes

FAQ about Substantive Changes - SACSCOC



If an institution is non-compliant with Substantive Change Policy and Procedures or Standard 14.2 (Substantive change), its accreditation may be in jeopardy. An unreported substantive change may require a review of the institution’s substantive change policy and procedures document by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. Non-compliance subjects the institution to monitoring, sanction, or removal from membership. Failure to secure approval, if required, of a substantive change involving programs or locations that qualify for title IV federal funding may place the institution in jeopardy with the U.S. Department of Education, including reimbursement of funds received related to an unreported substantive change. For additional information, refer to Appendix A, Standards and Policy Addressing Unreported Substantive Change, in Substantive Change Policy and Procedures. 

To ensure that all regulations and guidelines are followed when instituting a substantive change, be sure to review the checklist items below.